I’m not a fan of Buttigieg’s policies, but he had the most important line of the night.
It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say. Look, … it’s true that if we embrace a far-left agenda they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists.Pete Buttigieg
I’ve been saying this for years. Some people may remember the back and forth between Rep. Debbie Dingell and myself about this over the Voters Not Politicians redistricting ballot initiative.
The Republican Party is going to attack every Democrat as a socialists/communists. They don’t care that there’s a difference. Which pretty much makes the same point – Republicans don’t care about reality. They’re going to call every Democrat a pinko red fellow traveller communist socialist and probably an anarchists at some point. They’ll claim only an anarchist would want to eliminate the electoral college, because it would lead to chaos! Never mind that the electoral college is entirely undemocratic.
Centrist, moderate, establishment Democrats will spend all their time trying to explain why they’re not socialists. And the Republicans will go hog wild beating them bloody with that lie through the whole campaign. They don’t have a defense against it. In politics, if you’re explaining you’re losing.
Sanders doesn’t have that problem. He has a defense against it. He is a socialist. Every time they bring it up, he responds with his policy position. Not windy explanations of how he’s not a socialist. Medicare for All. Free College. Eliminate Student Debt. Green New Deal. Restorative Justice. Voting Rights. Every attack is an opportunity to talk about his actual policies, how they help the average American in the pocket book, and advance small-d democracy for all.
This is one of the many reasons centrists, moderates, and establishment Democrats can’t win against Trump. They’ll spend half their time explaining, maybe more. Sanders’ answer to “you’re a socialist!” is “yeah, let’s talk about what that means – Medicare for All, Green New Deal, Forgiving Student Debt … if we can afford to bail out the big banks to the tune of seven hundred billion, and spend six trillion for war since 9/11, and give a $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut to the wealthy, we can damned well afford to save the planet and give everyone excellent healthcare!”
The centrist answer is to try and dismiss the question. “Oh, that’s baloney” Biden will say, or Klobuchar, or Harris, or Buttigieg, or … . It won’t work. They’ll be pressed on it by Trump and the media over and over again. Then they’ll try “Look, I’m a capitalist, I support market solutions to healthcare, the climate crisis, and …” they won’t get any farther, they’ll be interrupted. “You want the government in everything, starting with the public option – it’s just a pinko commie trick to get the ball rolling for the government takeover!!!” If they support the public option, they’ll have to explain that.
Republicans think these policies are losers with the public. They’ll be happy to let Sanders go on about them. They’re not losers with the public. These policies poll well, when the wording of the question frames it accurately. Sanders will have the chance to frame them accurately every time they attack him for being a socialist. Most of them are Sanders’ policies that have driven the conversation and dominated Democratic Party politics since 2016.
If Democrats nominate a centrist, moderate or establishment type, that’s what the election will be about. Trump and Republicans constantly on the attack, the Democratic candidate constantly on the defensive. Trump will lie like he’s never lied before to win. His base won’t care, many low information voters will be snookered, and the left won’t turn out in the numbers we need to beat the voter suppression, gerrymandering, and other election shenanigans we’re going to face.
The left won’t turn out in numbers because there’s nothing to vote for, only someone to vote against. Democrats tried that strategy last time. It’s a loser.
I want to emphasize this point. There are a lot of voters who just aren’t going to turn out unless there’s something to vote for. That means Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, Restorative Justice, Free College, and so one. The wealthy give their bucks for tax cuts – remember when Republicans were openly saying they have to pass the tax cut because otherwise their big dollar donors wouldn’t support them next time around? That’s a government handout to a few. A large portion of the left isn’t going to turn out unless they’re getting something at least as big that serves the many, not just the few.
This is a demographic fact that Democrats ignore at their peril. There are a huge number of votes to be won with real, substantive policies that serve the 99%. Without a significant chunk of these voters, the Democratic nominee will lose. Sanders and Warren both have policy proposals that meet or exceed that bar. For the 99%, Sanders has more and better policies than Warren. The rest of the field doesn’t even come close.
If Democrats nominate Sanders, they give themselves the best chance of winning. If they nominate Warren, they reduce their chances significantly, but not necessarily catastrophically. If they nominate anyone else, they’ll almost certainly lose.
Warren said, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” It was the second most important line of the night.
Every centrist, moderate, establishment Democrat in the race does this. Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Harris, Biden, Delaney, everyone of them. They have to explain why we can’t do what every other major country has done – provide healthcare to everyone. They’re not credible when they say this can’t be done. When Canada, Norway, the UK, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, and many other countries provide healthcare for all, often with a single-payer system, American Exceptionalism isn’t a persuasive explanation for why we can’t do it.
Every Democrat who wants to keep health insurance companies around needs to explain why Americans should pay any amount in premiums, deductibles and co-pays that does not go to providing them healthcare. Hundreds of billions go to advertising, corporate profits, massive executive salaries, and whole departments of bureaucrats dedicated to denying you healthcare. How will their plan compensate the American people for their lost healthcare dollars? To the tune of hundreds of billions?
The Democrats who want to keep private insurance companies around are arguing for taking those hundred of billions of dollars we spent on healthcare, and giving it to the executives of those corporations. Subsidizing the already wealthy with a government program – legalized health insurance. The pharmaceutical industry has another government program subsidizing it – the government program that makes it illegal for medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. These are both government programs that hand stacks of money to the 1% in the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. They are government mandated handouts to the wealthy. From every Democrat with a plan that doesn’t eliminate private insurance, I want to know why they support government handouts to the 1%?